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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

China - Africa Trade Agreements

07 - 11 - 06

The Congress of South African Trade Unions welcomes the talks last week between China and African countries in Beijing, the trade deals that were signed between China and 10 African nations worth $1.9-billion, and the statement by Chinese Premier Wen Jiaba o that China intended to more than double its bilateral trade with Africa to $100-billion dollars by 2010.

This reflects a growing realisation that the poorer, mainly Southern, nations must co-operate more and increase trade between each other if they are to reduce the huge gap in the share of world trade between themselves and the wealthy North, reduce these f ormer colonial powers' domination of world trade and make a positive contribution to the struggle for an equitable global trade regime.

Even in South-South negotiations however there are conflicting pressures as each country's priority is to defend its particular interests.

China is looking to Africa to provide more raw materials for its rapidly expanding manufacturing industries and is prepared to go to great lengths to secure these. South Africa for example has a large trade deficit with China, as it increases its exports o f minerals, but imports a growing volume of a range of manufactured goods, not only clothing and textiles.

This means that capital-intensive industries in South Africa are exporting materials for China to use in labour-intensive manufacturing industries. They then export their products back here at a big profit. In effect this means that we are exporting jobs t o China.

It is essential therefore that trade agreements with China must include measures to boost labour-intensive manufacturing industry in Africa.

We also reiterate the call we have made that all agreements signed between South Africa and other countries must include a clause that commits the parties to respect the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation, human rights and prote ction of the environment.

There is concern that China is prepared to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe, in return for trade deals, and this tendency must be contested. In addition China's own record on labour standards and human rights is pathetic. Its rapid economic growth is regrettably underpinned by violations of the fundamental rights of workers' and human rights.